Just a bit with Fr Schmidt – May 15, 2022

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Confirmation Misconceptions

It has been two years since we’ve celebrated Confirmations in these parishes. Because of COVID, I was delegated by the Bishop to celebrate those last time, but hopefully he’ll be able to make it up this way next year. We are planning on a Confirmation Mass sometime during the next academic year, hopefully in the spring, so parents who have children that have not yet been confirmed should be thinking about it.

People today tend to have a lot of misconceptions about the Sacrament of Confirmation. One most prevalent and frustrating is that once someone has been confirmed, they should be done with their religious education. But Confirmation is one of three Sacraments of Initiation. Initiation refers to the beginning, not the end. Our education in the faith is a lifelong process. Traditionally, the instruction we receive prior to the celebration of these sacraments is referred to as catechesis, while the instruction we receive after Initiation—no less important—is called mystagogy, instruction given to those who have already been transformed by the mysteries of God, the sacraments.

Confirmation is also not our opportunity to make a conscious Yes to God after most of us were too little at the time of our Baptism to do so. Like all the sacraments, we are asked to participate fully and consciously, as best we can, but the overwhelming emphasis should always be on God’s action in the sacraments, who is always the initiator and even provides the grace for our response. “We love because He first loved us” (1 Jn 4:19). This misconception of finally giving our Yes to God makes even less sense when you consider that most have already been receiving the very Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion for years before being confirmed and saying “Amen,” to God each time they do so, a much more serious Yes.

Theologically, the proper order for receiving the Sacraments of Initiation was Baptism first, then Confirmation, then the Eucharist as the crown and completion. But since Pope St. Pius X reduced the age required for reception of Holy Communion in the early 20th century, many areas failed to follow suit with the Sacrament of Confirmation, which has led to them being out of sequence only for the past century or so.

The main difference between the grace of Baptism and the grace of Confirmation is that while Baptism transforms and disposes us to receive grace from God for our own sanctification, Confirmation strengthens us especially to publicly proclaim the Gospel and share the grace of God with others, like the Apostles did after Pentecost. Seems to me, with all the temptations and challenges our children face today at younger and younger ages, they could really benefit from the grace of Confirmation earlier on. And if we are really called to be Lifelong Catholic Missionary Disciples through God’s Love, they’d be strengthened to also share the faith from a young age. I’m very open to working with parents and kids who are interested in celebrating Confirmation at earlier ages than what has been typical.

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One Vine and One Tongue

As the academic year winds down and we hopefully see some warmer temperatures, I wanted to alert you to some upcoming events. I’m not sure how often you go in to Aberdeen, but on Sunday, June 5, the Feast of Pentecost, the Aberdeen parishes are hosting a big event called One Vine at the NSU Barnett Center. They’ve invited everyone in the region to participate, and it will be the only Mass offered in Aberdeen that day. The Roncalli High School parking lot will serve for additional parking with a shuttle bus available.

The Lumen Christi team will have activities for the kids during the morning hours, and Archbishop Robert Carlson will be the keynote speaker before celebrating Mass with him and Bishop DeGrood and the Aberdeen priests and area Catholics. It should be a great event, especially to get a sense that the Church is bigger than any one of us on our own, bigger even than any single parish. Please look for more details on the diocesan website sfcatholic.org and consider attending if you are able to get to Aberdeen that Sunday.

During these summer months, I’d also like to start offering something I did when I was back at the Cathedral in Sioux Falls: Latin lessons. A number of families have expressed an interest in learning the basics of the Latin language. I already have around ten lessons prepared that I’ve taught before. When we get through those, we’ll see where we’re at and if there’s still a desire for additional lessons. Handouts will be available even if someone misses a session or more, and it may be possible to record lessons as well. I was thinking every other Sunday after the Latin Mass, so around 3:15 pm in the basement of the church in Hoven starting on May 22, then June 5, and so on.

Latin is the official language of the Roman Rite, the liturgical tradition of the Church we all belong to. In addition to helping us understand and pray the Gloria, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei still used at Mass, uniting us to the Church throughout the world and the Saints throughout the centuries, Latin is also the mother of all so-called Romance languages today, including Spanish, French, and Italian. Latin’s structure is also immensely helpful in learning grammar and features that apply to every language, including English. English itself, though not a pure Romance language, derives a large portion of words from Latin due to the influence of French and other languages over the centuries. Come, give it try anyway.

Just a bit from Fr Schmidt – May 1, 2022

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Spirit Blows Where He Wills

I’ve been thinking about wind lately. You’ll never guess why. At Masses during this past week, we had the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus from the Gospel according to St. John. When Jesus talks about the Holy Spirit, He often uses the image of wind or breath. Just like English does today, many ancient languages had what are known as homonyms, one word that can be used to mean several different things. The New Testament was written in Greek, and the Greek word for spirit is pneuma, which can also mean breath or wind. The English words pneumatic and pneumonia come from this Greek root. There are similarly versatile homonyms in Hebrew and Aramaic, which may be more likely the language Jesus was speaking with Nicodemus, that John then translated into Greek for his readers.

If you know a bit about what causes the wind to blow or what allows us to breathe with our lungs, you know that the flow of air ultimately stems from differences in air pressure. Wind is basically a convection current that forms between an area of high pressure—where cooler air tends downward—and an area of low pressure, often caused by the rays of the sun heating the surface of the earth and the air above it, making it rise.

These differences in pressure and temperature stem from the different properties of what receives the sun’s rays. The water of lakes, rivers, and oceans holds more energy and so heats or cools more gradually than most other surfaces. Ground covered with plants also heats/cools more gradually than bare asphalt. For breathing, our diaphragm causes our lungs to expand, lowering the air pressure inside them and causing air to rush in from the higher air pressure that then surrounds us. The movement of air in breathing and in the wind is nature’s attempt to restore equilibrium between two extremes. It’s just too bad we’re so often caught in the middle.

But wind isn’t all bad, and our every breath is dependent on the same process of air’s tendency to move from high pressure to low pressure. Jesus found the energy, power, freedom, and life-giving properties of wind and breath to be an apt description of the Holy Spirit’s role in bringing spiritual life to our souls. May the Holy Spirit always bring the peace and equilibrium of God into our hearts and minds amid the highs and lows of this passing life, that our every breath, word, and action may be for the glory of God and salvation of souls.

Just a bit from Fr Schmidt – April 24, 2022

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Aids for Bible Reading

Most of us have a certain amount of routine, things we do regularly, even every day. Exercise, hygiene, nutrition, sleep are just some of the activities that we make time for in our schedules, even if we’re not able to be as consistent sometimes as we’d like to be. Prayer and spiritual reading should also be routine for us if we hope to maintain or grow at all in our spiritual health.

One thing I’ve mentioned before that’s been a goal of mine for a number of years is to read through the entire Bible once each year. I started once I finally sat down and calculated how many chapters I’d need to read each week (26) or each day (4 on weekdays, 3 on each Saturday and Sunday). For several years I maintained this, along with reading through the Catechism, but these last few years as a pastor of parishes, I’d fallen behind. But during Lent, I found a strategy that’s been really helpful to get back on track.

Today, you can find podcasts on all sorts of topics. You can also find recordings of almost any translation of the Bible. To reach my Scripture-reading goal, I’ve found it to be much easier, more efficient, less daunting, and less prone to distraction for me to play a recording of the chapters as I follow along with the text. Sometimes, I’ve also just played the book of Isaiah or Jeremiah as I lay down to sleep and get bits and pieces of it that way. Technology is not all bad. If it can be a source of distraction, it can also be used to help us focus and reach our spiritual goals.

This Monday is the Feast of St. Mark and so also the Major Rogation Day. The Rogation Days, which also include the minor ones three days prior to Ascension Thursday, were penitential days of prayer for planting, favorable weather, blessings of fields and livestock, along with processions accompanied by the Litany of Saints. On Monday after the Mass in Hoven, at about 5:50 pm, we’ll have a procession around the block of St. Anthony Church as we sing the Litany of Saints for blessings upon this new growing season. For more rain and less wind, please join us for Mass and the procession.

Just a bit Fr Schmidt – April 17, 2022

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Making All Things New

One of the most moving scenes from Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ has to be when Jesus meets His Mother Mary along the Way of the Cross. There’s a flashback to Jesus as a little Boy falling down and Mary running to scoop Him up in her arms as we see Jesus fall beneath the weight of the cross and Mary running to console Him: “I’m here.” As Jesus raises the cross once more and continues on His way, He says to His mother, “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev. 21:5).

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the glory of His Resurrection. Death could not hold Him who is the Author of Life. One apparent oddity in the resurrected Body of Jesus are the holes in His hands and feet, the wound in His side. In the resurrection of life, the just will have every bodily perfection. We usually think of wounds as imperfections, but this was never how Jesus viewed the Cross. He said of His sufferings: “There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!” (Lk. 12:50). And the Letter to the Hebrews tells us, “it was fitting that God… should make the leader of our salvation perfect through suffering.”

The wounds of Christ’s Passion, far from being imperfections, are what made His life and sacrifice complete. Only after what He suffered on the Cross could He finally say, “It is finished, consummated, completed” (Jn. 19:30). He makes all things new, including the trials, pains, wounds, sufferings of this life. In Christ, our own wounds find new purpose and meaning.

I’ve often wondered—since Jesus bears the scars of the perfection of His Body—what other Saints might have similar features in the resurrection. Maybe John the Baptist and St. Paul will be carrying their own heads around in heaven, since they were beheaded as a martyr/witness to Christ. St. Peter may have the scars of his own crucifixion as trophies of his martyrdom. What about us? Are there sufferings we have endured for Christ, scars that will proclaim our love for Him into all eternity? Or are we still imperfect, incomplete? The holes in the hands, feet, and side of Christ endlessly proclaim His love for you. “His mercies never fail; they are new every morning” (Lam. 3:22-23).

Just a bit from Fr Schmidt – April 10, 2022

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The Holiest Week

This final week of Lent is known as Holy Week because this is when Jesus accomplished the main events of our redemption, from His triumphal entry into Jerusalem to the Last Supper with His Apostles, entrusting to them the holy priesthood and the Most Holy Eucharist. His redemptive sufferings grow intense during His agony in the garden of Gethsemane, as He sweats blood in anticipation of the Cross, and Judas’s betrayal. Dragged to His various trials in chains and with shackles digging into His wrists, He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. With scourges separating flesh from bone and a crown of thorns renewing its pain with each bump from the heavy cross, He would need the help of Simon of Cyrene to get the cross to its destination atop Calvary.

St Mark tells us that Jesus was nailed to the cross around 9 in the morning on Good Friday and hanged there alive and struggling to breathe for six hours until 3 in the afternoon. Recently, I’ve been reflecting more on the significance of those six hours. The Romans always chose a prominent place just outside the city for crucifixions, so that everyone else would have a chance to witness the fate of those who step out of line. Think of how many would have looked up and seen Jesus hanging from that saving Cross. And how many saw and believed? “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM.” Still today, every crucifix declares the love of God for us. Even in the very moment of putting Him to a most shameful death, God gave the most startling expression of His unconquerable compassion.

After breathing His last, having blood and water pour out from His pierced side, being placed in the arms of His sorrowful Mother, and buried in the silent tomb, He rose victorious on the third day, just as He said He would. Now He lives, no more to die. These are the saving mysteries of this holiest of weeks. This is the mystery of Christmas fulfilled: that, unable to die in His own divine nature, God became Man so that God could die for you. Marvel at such wondrous love. Tremble, and give endless thanks.

Just a bit from Fr Schmidt – April 3, 2022

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Passiontide

Just as in the season of Advent there are two phases—the first being more focused on Christ’s return at the Final Judgment and the second (starting around December 17) focusing on His Nativity in Bethlehem—Lent also has two phases. Since the change in the Mass readings after the Second Vatican Council, the special character of each part of Lent is less apparent, but certain practices still persist. The most conspicuous is the veiling of crosses, statues, and other images of Saints inside the church (except the Stations of the Cross) from this 5th Sunday of Lent until the solemn Adoration of the Cross on Good Friday or until Holy Saturday.

This practice of veiling sacred images alludes to the Gospel that used to be proclaimed every year on this Sunday, when Jesus told the crowds, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” In response to this clear declaration of His divinity—a reference to the mysterious Name revealed to Moses on Mt. Sinai: I AM WHO AM—they picked up stones to put Jesus to death for such “blasphemy.” But Jesus “hid Himself” and no longer appeared openly until His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and at His trial and execution. Images of Saints are veiled as well because it was thought improper for the servants to appear in the open while their Master was hidden away.

Another explanation for the veiling of images is that as we witness the incredible suffering and death of Jesus in the frailty of our humanity, His divinity is in some sense veiled from us, difficult to discern as He sweats blood, is scourged beyond recognition, and breathes His last upon the Cross. These final two weeks of Lent, called Passiontide, focus more specifically on the events of Christ’s Passion and death, while the first four weeks of Lent are focused more generally on penitence, reconciliation, and growth in the spiritual life.

However your Lent has gone so far, it’s not too late to draw close to God in these final weeks, repent of our sins, and grow especially in gratitude for all that Jesus suffered to redeem us. “O love, O charity beyond all telling, to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!” (Exsultet of the Easter Vigil). Come, let us worship and praise Christ, who has redeemed the world by His Holy Cross!

Just a bit from Fr Schmidt – March 27, 2022

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Rejoice and Keep Going

This Laetare Sunday—much like Gaudete Sunday of Advent—means that we’ve already reached the halfway point of the season on our way towards Easter. Rose vestments are often used to highlight this. The name comes from the first word of the Entrance Antiphon, which is a command telling us to “Rejoice!” Laetare and Gaudete are fairly synonymous in that respect.

Having this note of joy halfway through the 40 days of Lent reminds me of a sermon from St. Augustine where he uses the analogy of workers in a field who sing as they work. Singing the praises of God in the midst of our toil should make our work seem lighter. The song we sing while still on this earthly pilgrimage amidst trials and temptations does not yet reach the full joy of what the Angels and Saints sing in the security of heaven, but it refreshes us with the strength that comes from God. “So, then, my brothers, let us sing now, not in order to enjoy a life of leisure, but in order to lighten our labors. You should sing as wayfarers do—sing, but continue your journey.” Rejoice, and keep going.

This weekend also marks our 40 Hours Devotion, the solemn Exposition of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, at St Augustine in Bowdle. The first weekend of April will be Hoven’s turn. I hope you will take the opportunity at some point on these weekends at least to stop into the church and spend a few moments with Jesus, even if you aren’t able to commit to a whole hour. It is a great comfort to His most Sacred Heart, amidst the sea of so many who are indifferent to Christ and His Eucharistic Presence, even as He was grieved that His own chosen Apostles failed to stay awake and watch with Him during His great Agony in the Garden of Gethsamane.

This Thursday, I will be at the Cathedral in Sioux Falls for the Chrism Mass, in which the Bishop consecrates and blesses the holy oils that are used throughout the diocese for Baptisms, Confirmations, Anointings of the Sick. We also renew together the priestly promises we made at our ordination. The normal day for the Chrism Mass is actually Holy Thursday, when Christ instituted the Eucharist and the Holy Priesthood, but in dioceses that are as geographically large are ours, it is more typical to anticipate the Chrism Mass some time earlier during Lent. I’ll be taking some days off this week to make the travel time more worthwhile. While I’m away, remember to rejoice and keep going.

Just a bit from Fr Schmidt – March 20, 2022

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Clearing Out the Clutter

Now that we’re back on Daylight Saving Time and had some warmer temperatures this week, it’s feeling more and more like spring. I’ve been out for a brief, barefoot run already, although I’ll probably stick closer to the church sidewalk next time. Quite a bit of loose rock still laying around. A lot of us probably try to do some spring cleaning this time of year. It’s amazing how much can accumulate in a short time and how much clutter we can get used to.

Even more important than cleaning around the house, lawn, garage, barn, or shed, is clearing out the clutter of our spiritual lives. Lent is the natural time of spring cleaning for our souls. The Sacrament of Confession is the most important in this respect, clearing out the sins—especially any grave sins—that have crowded out God from our hearts. Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving also gives us the opportunity to purify our attachments to lesser things, things that may not be sinful in themselves but often distract us and detract us from our relationship with God. “Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Mt. 6:21). If we want our hearts to belong to God, we need to treasure Him above all else.

If we don’t yet treasure God above all else, then changing our affections usually takes some actual work. We don’t just fast and persevere through hunger or the desire for movies or chocolate or whatever else we’ve given up to show God that we value Him more already. Engaging in fasting actually helps to bring this about, to break our excessive attachment to created things and to reattach our affections more firmly to God. It also brings us greater awareness of just how attached we really are to so many things that are less than God.

There’s a quote from St. Augustine on the old Feast of the Apostle St. Matthias (Feb. 24) that I’ve been thinking about almost every day since then. Reflecting on our high calling to heavenly realms, he says, “Seeing God is promised to us. Seeing the true God, the supreme God. For those who worship false gods see them easily, they see those ‘who have eyes and see not.’ But to us is promised the vision of the living God, the God who sees.” We spend so much time today staring at things that are not looking back at us! We labor and serve gods that cannot see us, that do not care about us. How often do we remember that every time we look for God, He is already staring back at us? Do we know what His look of love looks like? Do we let His Eyes change our hearts, free us from shame in the radiance of His Light, and strengthen us to cling to Him? Now is the time to start.

Just a bit from Fr Schmidt – March 13, 2022

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Final Lent and Ukraine Funds

If this were your last Lent on earth, would you be living it differently? Would you spend more time in prayer, in the church, with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament? Would you do more serious fasting and almsgiving? Would you make more of an effort to forgive and to mend relationships that have become estranged? Would you spend more time with people and less time with things? If you don’t have time this year, do you expect that to change by next year or the year after or before you run out of years?

At the end of our lives, if we just tell God we didn’t have enough time, if He actually reviews with us how we spent the time we had, how many hours, weeks, years will we have spent staring at screens? Or getting worked up about things beyond our influence and responsibility? Spending ourselves on things that pass away or even lead us away from heaven. If this were your last Lent on earth, would you be living it differently? By the time it is your last Lent, you won’t get another chance to live it differently.

One very timely opportunity for almsgiving this year is to help the people on the ground in Ukraine. The USCCB has an already established subcommittee and annual Collection to Aid the Church in Central and Eastern Europe. Because of its network and history in the area, Bishop DeGrood has recommended contributing to this fund to allow for the most effective use of contributions in the places where they are most needed. If you would like to contribute to this fund through the regular parish collection, please place such contributions in their own envelope labeled with “Ukraine.”

The Knights of Columbus have also established a Ukraine Solidarity Fund and have a presence in Poland and Ukraine able to give assistance on the ground through the local parishes. You can donate to that fund on their website: www.kofc.org. War always involves the suffering of innocent people and non-combatants, the suffering of many poor people even throughout the world as energy prices go up. Please continue to pray for a swift and peaceful resolution that will last. “Grant peace in our time, O Lord.”